This week proved to be exciting for the college version of football. Throw in big match-ups, some surprises, lots of scoring in some games, big defensive stands in others. But don't assume the NFL wasn't good this weekend or next. If anything the NFL has more teams of even ability than ever before.
It's now the halfway point of the season and the good teams are finally, seemingly, settling into a rhythm of winning. With one or two exceptions this year has seen plenty of parody between teams and no one team stepping into the forefront to be the Super Bowl favorite just yet. The Atlanta Falcons continue to hold onto an unbeaten season but go on the road this week to the Saints, who despite their 3-5 record are always tough to beat at home in their dome. The New York Giants are another team trying hard to stay atop the heap of the best teams in the league, but ran into the Steelers who were able to beat the Giants at home. With that win the Steelers all of a sudden become a team to watch and have what should be an easy win at home this week against the 1-7 Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
Up in Chicago, the Bears will be treating the Houston Texans to a visit. Both teams are 7-1 and practical shoe ins for the playoffs. This is getting to the part of the season where losses are amplified and wins that much more important, so a win for either team would be a statement about the rest of their years. The rest of last week went pretty much as expected with the Eagles still having problems, the Colts improving, and the Broncos and Peyton Manning not giving up. Manning is putting on a show in Denver and his name is starting to pop up in eventual MVP award talk.
A week of big names set some teams futures in cement and force other teams to focus on a lackluster season. The biggest of last week's games was #1 Alabama at #5 LSU where the Tide somehow left with a win. LSU is known for their notorious home games, packing a loud crowd and fanatical fans. This essentially ensures Alabama will stay in the top rankings spot for the remainder of the year. This week is their last test hosting #15 Texas A&M at home. #2 Kansas St. escaped a challenge by #24 Oklahoma St. which leaves only Texas at the end of the season to have a chance to bring them down. Then there is #3 Oregon who might have done a bigger task than even Alabama did. Oregon went down to #17 USC, preseason favorite for just about everything, and won the game 62-51. It's their biggest win of the season and finally puts them on the map for the championship race. They still have division games against #14 Stanford and away against #11 Oregon St. which could prove to disrupt their run to the top.
This week's games have already started with an upset on Tuesday night, Ball State beating #25 Toledo, so no telling what happens everywhere else. LSU hopes to rebuild something after the Alabama loss by facing #21 Mississippi St. at home which should be an easy win for LSU. Stanford and Oregon St. go against one another before each taking on Oregon. Most other ranked teams are spending time facing unranked rivals or in division rivals which sometimes prove to be sticking points for some.
Some quick results from this weekend's fights. Richard Hale battled back to a TKO victory after Thiago Santos landed a triplet of hooks that stunned Hale. Santos noticeably tired soon after his quick burst of aggression ended. Bellator changed up some fights up and moved the featherweight semi-final between Shahbulat Shamhalaev vs Mike Richman to Bellator 79. Shamhalaev ended things decisively with a counter straight right that left Richman out cold on the canvas. In Las Vegas, the World Series of Fighting held it’s first event with the results most expected. Andrei Arlovski made quick work of Devin Cole improving to 3-0, 1 No Contest in his last four. Former UFC welterweight Anthony Johnson ended things with one punch over against DJ Linderman. Marlon Moraes scored a minor upset by taking a split-decision victory over former WEC champion Miguel Torres. Torres continued his streak of looking timid and inactive against his opponents. Torres hasn’t fought the same since his knockout loss to Brian Bowles in 2009. Kickboxing champion Tyrone Spong made a successful MMA debut, ending the fight at 3:15 of the first round. Overall the World Series of Fighting card was OK. With the spot on NBC Sports being a leaves things up in the air as to what outlet the World Series of Fighting will be on next.
With UFC on Fuel 6: Franklin vs Le being this weekend the UFC has been making some noise. Earlier in the week they announced 8 cards for 2013, mainly for the various FOX channels but they were nothing more than dates no fights or locations have been announced. Except for the forthcoming UFC on FOX 6 card, set for January 26 at the United Center in Chicago. The card will be headlined by a flyweight title fight between champion Demetrious Johnson and TUF winner John Dodson. Also announced for the card is a lightweight clash between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone and a light heavyweight fight between former champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Glover Teixeira. These are the types of fights are what the UFC should use FOX for. Buy putting entertaining fighters like Johnson, Dodson, and Teixeira that have a decent hardcore following but the greater populace are not aware of they can make a new crop of (much) needed Pay Per View headliners.
UFC on Fuel 6: Franklin vs Le is this weekend headlined by a middleweight bout between Rich Franklin and Cung Lee. Eminating from Macau the card will be airing live on FUELtv at 9/6am ET/PT with Facebook prelims starting at 7/4a ET/PT. As someone who loved staying up for Japanese MMA events at 12am till 8am the early start doesn't seem so bad. For more normal folk the card will be replayed throughout the day.
NBA and NCAA Basketball:
I'm combining the professional and collegiate leagues into one because I don't follow either with much vigor. I'd rather give you Pups a full report on the sport as a whole than a small paragraph on one or the other. Feel free to comment on anything I may miss in either league or something I should at least be keeping my eye on as both seasons begin in earnest in the near future.
The NBA has only barely begun and we already see some of the behemoths of the league inserting their dominance. The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and San Antonio Spurs are all in first, or tied in first, and the Lakers hoping to get some traction sometime soon. Kobe Bryant, notorious for late game comebacks and late season starts, has begun the season averaging nearly 27 points a game which is more than his career season average. Then you have the Denver Nuggets who were preseason favorites and now can't seem to find their offense or defense just yet. Granted all this means almost nothing since it still is so early in the season.
As for the college level their season has not begun just yet. Just like their football counterpart, NCAA basketball has in season rankings which help determine where the team may end up on the playoff bracket tournament. Preseason rankings put Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky at 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Most of the rankings look like the typical who's who of basketball powerhouses and the real interesting part of the season will be which underdog team surprises the rest of the field.